15 to play, 18 to manage …

Tank Lanning

One of the worst kept secrets in rugby was confirmed on Sunday when Rassie Erasmus was appointed by SARU to fill the vacant position of General Manager: High Performance Teams. He will also be seconded to the Springboks when they are in camp as a technical advisor.

He will work with all the national teams and not just the Boks …. “With our aim being to produce winning teams, Rassie’s main task will be to establish structures to do this. He will be tasked to create a blueprint for South African rugby that can be implemented from junior to senior level, for our mens’, women’s and sevens’ teams,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.

I am told by the people that have worked with Rassie that he is one of the most astute rugby brains on this earth, able to see things that others simply do not see, so I can only see positives from this move. He does hate the public and political side of things though, so best SARU structure his role as fairly insular and away from the prying eyes of the media …

Of great relief was the non-announcement of Victor Matfield as the Springbok captain, but I would not choke on my post toasties were that to be the reason for the next Sunday press conference. I am told that coach Heyneke Meyer wants Fourie du Preez back from Japan to be his Bok skipper, and failing that, he is keen for the ex Bok lock legend to strip off his SuperSport suite and ease back into the Green and Gold to don the skipper’s armband!

Judging from the comments on Twitter it would seem that people would not miss the mostly stating the obvious SuperSport stuff (at the cost of around a million bucks to the broadcaster), but that this move would be seen as a massive step backwards. And I would agree … It being a move not dis-similar to those of Peter de Villiers when he first got into office!

Experience is a key part of team success (as Jake White likes to point out to all who care to listen), but South African coaches seem to obsess with it. Often at the expense of the amazing young talent we seem to uncover on a regular basis … Why obsess with Du Preez when we have Hougaard, McLeod, Vermaak and Duwenhage? Why beg Matfield to reverse a perfectly timed retirement when we have Bekker, Etzebeth, Kruger and Van der Merwe?

And this obsession with the captaincy? … To my mind it is always about picking the 22 and then choosing one of the fine young men (many of them natural leaders) to run onto the field first. Sure that is a slight simplification as John Smit was a magnificent captain who brought a lot more than his game to the Bok party. But the obsession with the captaincy was a major reason for De Villiers’ demise, as Smit was quite obviously not the best player in his position in 2011, yet Divvy had to honour his promise that he made to his skipper four years earlier …

I was hoping to see Meyer break away from the mould, embrace the amazing young talent we have in SA, and play a slightly more expansive and modern game that requires skill and the ability to off-load in the tackle. The likes of Hougaard, Lambie, De Jongh, Sadie, Whitehead, Basson, Aplon, Mvovo and Pietersen were built for this! Throw in the odd wise head like Steyn, De Villiers, JP Pietersen and Habana, and it’s a talent pool that most international coaches can only dream about …

But alas it seems Meyer wants to surround himself with what makes him comfortable, and a lot of that seems light blue, and more worryingly, light blue with a moth ball aroma!

A quick squiz at his proposed management team confirms that …

SARU have begun negotiations with the following Bulls mgmt staff:

Johann van Graan (forwards)
Ricardo Loubscher (backs)
John McFarland (defence)
Basil Carzis (conditioning)
Ian Schwartz (manager)

SARU would also like to secure the services of:

Niel du Plessis (conditioning)
Louis Koen (kicking)
Pieter de Villiers (scrum)

And the confirmed members of the Bok mgmt team:

Dr Craig Roberts (team doctor)
Vivian Verwant (physiotherapist)
Daliah Hurwitz (masseuse)
Charles Wessels (Operational Head)
Ann-Lee Murray (PR and Admin Manager)
JJ Fredericks (Logistics)
Albé Visser (Technical Analyst)
De Jongh Borchardt (Communications Manager)

“It’s no secret that the negotiations around the Springbok assistant coaches positions have taken longer than we had hoped, but we want to give Heyneke the team that he sees as the best for doing the job,” said Roux.

“I have worked closely with most of the people while others have come very highly regarded” said Meyer.

With Meyer and Erasmus, it would take the mgmt team to 18 people! 15 people play a game of rugby, 18 to manage it … Clive Woodward what have you started?

I do like Pieter de Villiers as the scrum coach though. When I was dropped from the WP U20 team for a game for disciplinary reasons (I might have been late for a bus to George to play SWD after having a few too many beers the night before – something coach Doc Poole took umbrage with), he was the man who took my place at tighthead. He played plenty games for France (where scrumming is considered an art), coached Villagers last year, knows his oats, is a good rugby man, and a good guy in general. He will be an asset to the Boks …

And in closing, the Rassie Erasmus rugby CV:

Born – 5 November 1972

Springbok Tests: 36 (Won 27, Lost 9, scored 7 tries). One Test as captain, v Australia in Brisbane (1999); Tri-Nations winner (1998), Rugby World Cup bronze medal (1999), member of record-setting Springbok team that won 17 consecutive Tests (played in all but two of these matches).

Springbok Debut: 5 July 1997 v British & Irish Lions in Johannesburg, Springboks won 35-16.

Provincial Career: Cheetahs (1994-1998, 2001-2004) – 117 matches; Lions (1999-2000) – 7 matches; Cats (1998-2001) – 46 matches; Stormers (2003) – 4 matches.

First-class Record: 214 matches, 58 tries, 2 conversions (294 points).

Coaching Positions: Cheetahs 2005-2007 (Currie Cup and Super Rugby); Western Province and Stormers (2007-2011); Springbok Technical Analyst (Rugby World Cup 2011).

Major Coaching Accolades: Currie Cup champions with Cheetahs (2005 and 2007, shared in 2006) and runners-up with WP (2010); Super Rugby runners-up (2010) and SA Conference winners (2011) with Stormers.



  1. Tank, you forgot to mention top of the list of ‘most amazing young talent’. Johan Goosen who, as one example, has the most offloads in super rugby this year … even more than SBW ;

  2. im prepared to give him a shot, he is a great coach and has produced good results at the Bulls! It does seem a little “maak die Bulle almaal Bokke” but time will tell!

    I think we could create an incredibly dangerous side out of these new youngsters that are coming through that could dominate world rugby for a number of years.

    But as a mad Springbok supporter I believe all our sides should dominate 😉

    1. As am I meneer … Definitely, and sang his praises at his announcement … But one has to pass comment objectively … And I am hearing a warning bell or two …

  3. Very happy with team to support Heyneke. Also think Victor a bit dodgy-we have enough young talent. As a Bull supporter I don’t like the idea of ‘ maak die Bulls Bokke’. There is wonderfull talent in all the franchises for eg. not Kirchner as fullback-to predictable.

    Anyway, looking forward to exciting times with the new squad-coaches and players!!

  4. Where did Rassie manage to kick 2 conversions?? There must be a story behind that. Tank?

  5. Tank agree with you 100% – there is a warning bell or two out there. I commented earlier on another post of yours. The message I feel he is sending out is that he does not believe there is a captain amongst anyone who is currently playing and therefore he has to go to the retirement bench. it has happened before not only in rugby but those who have been asked to come back have been exceptional leaders which neither Matfield or Du preez are.

  6. Got to agree with you Tank, warning bells indeed.

    Meyer is repeating his actions from the Leicester appointment. He signed Derick Hougaard as his playmaker and tried to sign John McFarland too. It’s not like Leicester needed to play any tighter. I just don’t see how he is going to construct a Springbok team that is any better than the Bulls team. That will be good enough to beat most teams, but not the best ones. Let’s not even think about the poor form away from home.

    In general I think if one is offered a Springbok job then one should always answer that call, but a word in defence of Allister Coetzee. He’s already been a Springbok backs coach and now he’s a Super Rugby head coach. Why would he want to go back again? To fill a quota perhaps?

    Splitting hairs perhaps, but if McFarland is the defence coach, shouldn’t Loubscher be the attack coach? Maybe that job demarcation was part of the reason that Paul Treu turned his back. I know he is a keen advocate of the attack/defence specialities, not forwards/backs.

  7. Supersport should also drop Victor Matfield. He adds nothing either by way of commentary or or studio/other commenting. Nice guy but he lacks a screen “personality” and – let’s be honest – is not very articulate. Or am I the only one who thinks so…?

  8. My feeling is that Meyers appointment is 5 years too late. His philosophy would’ve suited the Boks then and he should’ve been chosen ahead of P Div then. Not sure whether he understands what the game needs at this point in time having been out of coaching for a number of years. Hopefully Rassie can show him.

  9. Tank – as I am currently in Finland watching ice hockey, I feel I am not as emotionally involved as you lot in SA!

    My take on this is that Heyneke is looking about two major things in making a few critical decisions in the short term: 1) he HAS to win against England and 2) he has to rebuild his a NEW springbok team by blending new players with old in key positions.

    I see Heyneke’s dilema. He literally has one or two practices before kick off and then he is into it. He must be SHITTING himself with the pressure. I would be! So why not bring in a few trusted old leadership heads to help him navigate through the first few weeks and few games e.g. Matfield? And at the same time bring in the new blood who know what will be expected of them in the future and can then be eased into their roles? Seems VERY logical to me.

    For me the most important appointment – if Matfield or Fourie (I am actually OK with Fourie) are brought back and made captain – is who will be the Vice-Captain?

    I don’t think it will be a long term solution, but he will use this year to ease into the job and set up solid foundations. If it means he has a few oldies on the paddock as back up and to help him navigate the early days, then I say let him do it!

    As long as it builds a foundation for the future of SA Rugby then we should let him do what is best. And anyway, Rassie won’t let him get away with any favouritism BS!

    My 2 cents!

    1. Shot for the comment Mikie

      I can see the logic in bringing back Fourie, as he is currently playing rugby. I do not agree with it as I think we have enough talent in SA and should not be picking overseas based players.

      But I cannot see any logic in pulling a player out of retirement to play against a side that the Bulls and Stormers should beat. No logic at all I am afraid. Especially given how well Bekker, Etzebeth, Kruger and Van der Merwe are playing …

      1. To be honest, I have not really watched many games. This Eben Etzebeth sounds the business. But are the young guys ready?

        I just feel for Heyneke Meyer with such huge expectations and such little time.

        It is a tough job!

        Also, I see your Front Row Grunt coming up on my twitter feed. It would be good if you had a twitter and FB log in so when I am commenting here it goes to both. Would be good for your blog!

        1. OK – now I see it on the bottom of the page after the Klipdrift article ….. should be more prominent! Lets see how it works now 🙂

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